How do I talk to my child about healthy sexuality?

“How do I talk to my child about healthy sexuality?” Help for Parents (2021)

“How do I talk to my child about healthy sexuality?” Help for Parents

Family Life

How do I talk to my child about healthy sexuality?

Many parents feel hesitant or embarrassed to talk to their children about sexuality, or they fear that talking to their children about sexuality will awaken their sexual behavior. The truth is, if you don’t talk to your children about sexuality, they will learn about it from another source. By having regular conversations with your children about important topics like healthy sexuality, you help them understand that you’re someone safe to approach.

Most children are naturally curious, and they want to understand the natural, God-given feelings they experience. You can prepare yourself to talk with your children about sexuality by remembering what you were like at their age. What were some of the feelings you experienced? What thoughts, questions, or concerns did you have? Where did you seek information? What do you wish you had heard or been taught?

It’s OK if you feel unsure about how to best handle these conversations. You can use your vulnerability to build your relationship with your children. Children can feel your love as you’re honest and sincere in communicating with them, despite any discomfort you might be feeling.

To foster open communication, you can:

  • Start when your children are young by calling body parts by their correct names. This teaches children about their bodies and provides them the language they need to be healthy and informed.

  • Let your children know they can ask you any questions, and then try not to overreact or attach shame to their questions or confessions. Celebrate that they are talking to you, show them love and support, and do your best to keep communicating.

  • Avoid using metaphors for sexuality. Children need information presented in a clear and honest way. For example, some youth tell of lessons where breaking the law of chastity is compared to chewed gum or food that is passed from person to person around the room and therefore no longer desirable. Though well-intentioned, these types of metaphors often promote fear of sexuality or feelings of low or irreparable self-worth.

  • Have home evening lessons on topics related to sexuality and let your children teach as they feel ready. Topics might include puberty, body image, and the positive aspects of sexuality.

  • Discuss how experiencing sexual feelings and sexual arousal is normal. Children don’t need to act on those feelings and sensations but can be mindful of them. This means noticing sexual feelings but not negatively judging them. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness can help children make better choices that are in line with their values and goals.

  • Try not to react with disgust or anger when children engage in self-touching or youth admit to masturbating. How parents respond to these behaviors affects how children and youth feel about themselves and their sexuality.

  • Teach your children the why behind standards related to relationships and sexuality. As you teach these standards and the reasons why they are valuable, remember that it’s important to do so without imposing shame or fear.1